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What to do if you find an injured wild animal

Interacting with wildlife in a safe and non-invasive manner is one of the most magical things to experience. Seeing a bear eating berries off a bush right in front of you or seeing a herd of elk grazing in a field is something unforgettable. And while leaving wild animals to fend for themselves is often the best way to protect them, sometimes they need a little human assistance. Each species has different needs that humans can help provide and it is important to recognize this when dealing with injured or abandoned animals. For example, just because a fawn is left alone, doesn’t mean it has been abandoned. Doe’s will often hide their fawn’s while they go and eat further away to lead the predators away from the babies.

With each species having very different needs, Google would be the best option if you find an injured animal. Human intervention should be the last resort as most times, the animals just need a little time to recover. Introducing ourselves to the animals causes a great deal of stress on them as they see us as big and scary creatures. We have compiled a list of general things to do if you find an injured or abandoned animal. 

Identify. Look for signs of injury or illness. Some common signs are: 

  • Limping, blood, or open wounds
  • Limited movement or unresponsiveness when you are approaching the animal 
  • Dizziness, disorientation or other mobility problems
  • Babies will often be crying, covered in bugs or dirt, cold and shivering

Monitor. If you come across an animal that does not have any visible injuries, the best option is to just monitor the animal for an hour or two. That way if it was left by its partner or parent you will not be interfering with that relationship. Some birds fall out of the nest when learning to fly and will be fed on the ground by their parents but to us it may appear that they have been left behind. If after a few hours the animal still has not moved or appears to be in distress then step in. 

Act. Although it may seem like a good idea to step in and help the animal, this can create stress and shock. The best thing to do is call a wildlife rehabilitator or Alberta Fish & Wildlife (403-381-5266).  These people are trained and can handle the animals in a way that will create as little stress as possible for the animal. Other places to call: 

  • Lethbridge Animal Shelter (403)-320-4099, concerns about dogs or cats that are lost, injured or stray animals 
  • Helen Schuler Nature Centre (403)-320-3064, inquiries and information about the different species in Lethbridge and further able to provide information on resources, rattlesnake sighting reporting
  • Rattlesnake Relocation (403)-332-6806, relocation of rattlesnakes in urban and recreational areas 
  • Alberta Birds of Prey Centre (403)-345-4262, rescue of injured birds of prey 

Your first thought when finding an injured animal is to help out, however sometimes the best thing we can do is let the animal be. I know it’s rough seeing a cute little creature suffering but oftentimes they are quite resilient and can fend for themselves. In the times that human intervention is needed, it is best to call a trained professional. That way the animal will be handled in the best way possible to reduce stress and will be sent to safety. Wild animals are just that, wild and known for pulling through the tough times. While it can make yourself feel good to cater to a little creature, they really don’t need all that much help from us.